Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Snow Day


Snow Day


7:15 am

Sisters Oregon

Consider the colors of a snowy day.

White contrasts with

Black stone peeking beneath the snow.

Blue sky painted by

Amber clouds as the sun rises.

Gold shafts of grass, stirred by a 

Gray rabbit finding refuge.

Red birds seeking shelter in

Green trees held by

Brown trunks, solid in their service.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Not a "lost" year

Recently, there have been a lot of articles with screaming headlines about a lost year of education. “How will the students catch up?”, “What does this mean for their future?” are common titles. This has been a difficult year for many while others have embraced a new way of learning and doing. I want to assure you, students have not lost a year, it has just been different. They have learned different things.

Maybe a better question would be “how have students spent their time?” Being at home with families, have they had to participate more as a connected unit? Have they taken care of younger siblings more often? Spent concern over grandparents? Learned to make meals? Learned how to spend time alone? 

In school, they have learned to navigate multiple tools and resources using technology, managed multiple classes online, many transitioned back into a classroom with very different expectations from when they left. These are all important lessons learned by students this year, teaching them life lessons such as organization, flexibility, leadership, self-motivation, responsibility, self-control, and grace towards others.

Some students had difficulty connecting with school online, but sadly, that can be the case in a building also. Some of those students thrived in this environment, while some traditionally strong students floundered without the building structure. Reflecting on all these responses to a non-traditional year can be its own lesson about who we are and how we learn.

During all this, they have also been exposed to endless information on disease and the spread of a pandemic. They have observed protests, both peaceful and violent, in response to issues of social justice. They have experienced an election and observed the transfer of power from one party to another. They have been learning through all of this.

This has not been a lost year for anyone who was participating on any level. We will all have our own stories to share, our own experiences to internalize, our own lessons learned. This will become a part of us, and help inform our students as they move forward into what we can only hope will be a more compassionate and empathetic space for everyone as we venture back out into the world from our pandemic year.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

How do we return?

Over a year ago the world for us changed overnight. We said, “see you tomorrow”, not yet realizing that this would not happen. Not tomorrow, or many tomorrows, for over a year. The students I had been teaching moved on, I welcomed a new class, and we still haven’t “seen you tomorrow.” But, now we will, and the adjustment brings excitement and concern, happiness and trepidation. Can I stand to wear a mask all day? Can I get used to standing 6 feet apart, moving classrooms, adjusting to the shifts in classes while continuing to plan lessons and assess student work? Will those students who have had difficulty connecting with school find it more meaningful back in the building? 

I’m nervous, but not in the “first-day-of-school” way, but in the “I-don’t-know-what-this-will-look-like way” and can I change how I teach again, and will it be meaningful for my kids, and will they be full of wonder and curiosity when we are done or just relieved that this year is over.

We have all done our best this year. That is what I want my students to know the most, that I have done my best for them and I know they have done their best also. Sometimes, our best doesn’t look very good, and sometimes our best has flashes of brilliance. In the end, what will matter, is our collective response to one another. Some came through the fire unscathed while others lost dearly. Our job will be to hold the memories of what was missed during the year and be gentle with those thoughts. Look at one another, be grateful for more time together, and know that we can do difficult things.


Saturday, March 20, 2021

I Rise from My Roots

Recently I drew a picture of my life. It started as a time-line of sorts, but lives aren’t really very linear. No one tells us that, we celebrate our milestones, but don’t always recognize the person we are becoming, how we become a compilation of people and experiences, both good and bad. We don’t leave experiences behind as much as build them up like a good mulch. And like a mulch, sometimes stuff gets thrown into the pile that really didn’t belong there, or wasn’t part of the plan, but is now incorporated and we have to just go with it. Icky stuff can grow too, which can become really confusing about what we are supposed to keep and what we need to uproot and throw away.


I drew a new picture. Now I’m 60 and an interesting combination of all those years it took to get me here. I like this picture so much better, it shows my roots going deep and being nurtured by all the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve known.  My yoga instructor has a mantra to help us strengthen and stand tall: “I rise from my roots”, helping us envision the connectedness to the earth and the strength we gain from that connection. My picture connects me to all those I’ve lost with a promise for what will be. I rise from my roots.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Good in the World

We can’t help but see difficult news every day as a pandemic takes its human toll, fire ravages the land, snow and ice destroy homes, and the scourge of racism runs rampant through our communities. There are days where our world seems broken beyond repair.

At the end of the summer, 2020, my daughter, Lenka, and I looked forward to a day together hiking in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, an opportunity to cleanse our minds and souls. We chose a Wednesday, hoping that during mid-week there would be few people on the trail, mindful of the continuing pandemic and need for social distancing. Wearing masks, we drove the stunning Old Highway toward Mt. Hood to hike the Larch Mt. Trail.


The day appeared to be perfect. We deliberated about whether to begin by walking up a short trail to see the viewpoint first or wait until we had hiked for the day and finish at that spot. With the cloudless sky, we decided that beginning with a flawless view would be the best way to begin our hiking adventure.


Alone at the top, the panoramic view of five mountains was stunning. We took pictures, shared some fruit, and Lenka lamented that she had worn the wrong shoes. 


The short path to the top had been steep but was paved and we enthusiastically began our way down to the main trail. As Lenka stopped to take a picture of an old-growth tree, I savored the experience, soaking in the beauty of our surroundings. And then I fell.


My ankle twisted, the path was steep, and I came crashing down on my left wrist. I can still replay the slow-motion reel in my mind. Knowing that I couldn’t stop this fall, the disappointment that our day could end, watching my hand and wrist meet the pavement and bend in a way that was not part of the design. Our day turned scary, and ugly, and broken, as I went into shock.


But then, a stranger appeared on the trail, revived and stabilized me, while reassuring Lenka that he was a physical therapist and I would be OK.  A young couple interrupted their day of hiking with their family to call 911, sat with us while we waited for paramedics, providing compassion and kindness, water, and snacks. What was supposed to be a day of adventure in the Gorge, became a day of adventure in the ER. By evening, after many kind encounters in our fragmented world, I was left with a great deal of gratitude for the kindness of strangers, restoring my faith in the goodness of humanity.

I have no words of wisdom for dealing with the challenges in our world today, except the observation, that there is more good in the world than not, and sometimes we get broken, but we are always fixable.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

To be seen and heard

Every person's story matters.

Even those with the quietest voices 

and the lowliest state

have a story to tell that is equal

to those who have reached great heights.

Growing up in a family of five siblings, it could be difficult to get a word in edgewise. As the middle child, and a girl, my voice could often get dismissed to my louder sisters and brothers.  Helping students find their voices and stories has been my life's work and now it is time for me to find my own voice also.

When we teach children to read, we teach them the text, then to read between the lines for hidden meanings and more understanding of the author's intent. Too often, we forget to show them how to read beyond the lines to discover the hidden stories and possibilities that are created when we combine our own story with the text we read.  The most fun is to read beyond the lines and find a world of possibilities in all the stories around us.

Snow Day

  Snow Day 4/1/23 7:15 am Sisters Oregon Consider the colors of a snowy day. White contrasts with Black stone peeking beneath the snow. Blue...